"Peggy" Duffy-Murphy's quest for a pet for her children led her to a hobby that challenged and absorbed her for the next 50 years.
"Apricot minis -- that was her variety," said Linda Caldwell, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Poodle Club.
Margaret M. Duffy-Murphy, of Mt. Lebanon, died Friday in St. Clair Hospital. She was 89.
"She was amazing -- bright and energetic and spry," Sharon Hollabaugh, a friend of many years, said.
Her passion for miniature and toy poodles began in 1954 with a black poodle named Suzette, according to her son, Michael Duffy. "My sister had allergies," Mr. Duffy explained. "Poodles don't shed." The breed produces very little dander, a prime cause of allergic reactions. Suzette's first litter included an apricot-colored puppy.
While his mother took her children to a few dog shows when they were young, Mrs. Duffy-Murphy did not undertake serious breeding and showing of what became known as "Duffy apricots" until Michael and his sister Dianne left for college, he said.
Ms. Hollabaugh, a dog groomer from Crafton, got to know Mrs. Duffy-Murphy 16 years ago, when she provided weekly care for the poodles the Mt. Lebanon woman had entered in dog shows. A number of her animals became American Kennel Club champions.
Mrs. Duffy-Murphy maintained high standards for her dogs and for potential pet owners. "When you came to her for a dog, you had to show her you deserved to have one," Ms. Hollabaugh said.
"That's how she met her second husband," Michael Duffy said. "He bought a poodle from her and then he married her."
As age and physical ailments began to slow her and her husband down, they were forced to reduce the size of their family of canines. Until very recently, however, she and her husband, retired Army Maj. Clifton M. Murphy, had still cared for two apricot miniature poodles, Brody and Chablis. Mr. Murphy is very ill, his stepson, Mr. Duffy, said.
Mrs. Duffy-Murphy was born in Seattle, the daughter of the late Charles Otis and Margaret Helen Timeus McNeal. Raised in San Bernardino, Calif., she graduated from high school there and then attended San Bernardino Junior College and Stanford University.
During World War II, she worked at the Army's Mira Loma Depot. Near the end of the war, she married Army Capt. Bernard Day Duffy, a Pittsburgh native, and returned with him to live and raise their family in Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.
As her interest in breeding and showing dogs grew, she became a co-founder of Greater Pittsburgh Poodle Club and a certified American Kennel Club judge. She was also a member of the Apricot Red Poodle Club. "Her dogs were among the first apricot miniatures in the United States," club treasurer Terry Farley said. "She imported a lot of her animals from England, and she championed the color."
Miniatures are poodles measuring no more than 15 inches tall at the shoulder. "Apricot" poodles have coats ranging in color from strawberry blond to almost red, Mr. Farley said.
A decade after the 1980 death of her first husband, she married Mr. Murphy. When the couple traveled to dog shows both in the United States and Germany, they were known informally as "the Major" and "the Majorette."
In addition to her son, who lives in Glenview, Ill., and Fort Myers, Fla., and daughter Dianne D. Kirsopp, of The Villages, Fla., her survivors include four stepchildren, James G. Murphy of Nazareth, Pa., Marye E. Murphy of Punxsutawney, Melissa A. Murphy of San Diego, Calif., and John F. Murphy of Terryville, Conn.; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Services and interment will be private. The Laughlin Memorial Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Orphans of the Storm, P.O. Box 838, Kittanning 16201; The Animal Rescue League, 6620 Hamilton Ave., Pittsburgh 15206; or to an animal shelter of the donor's choice.
Len Barcousky: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.